Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Break Yourself Out (or how to start your book)

By James R. Tuck, @JamesTuckwriter

Part of the How They Do It Series
(Monthly contributor)

How do you write a book?

Every author has been asked that question almost every time they do an author event. Most of the time people aren't asking about the minutiae of writing a book. They know how to type. They are fluent in a language of some form. They know how to string words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and when you do enough of that you have a book.

Most of the time they aren't even asking about storytelling. They have their story in their head, probably not complete, but they know it's in there. I mean, if you see 1/3rd of an elephant the safest bet is the whole elephant is there as well. (Unless you're writing the kind of story that involves a butchered elephant. (Hey, don't judge. I see your judging face))

Most of the time, what they really mean is how do you start a book?

How do you physically make a story in your head into something solid like a manuscript?

It can be intimidating. When you begin to write you can get overwhelmed by the need to make the characters as believable as possible, to make the story make sense, to know what happens from page to page, to make it exciting, and to tell the truth. You've read novels, they go from page one to page whatever, in order.

In your head the Anti-write goblin begins to scream: Then you have to write it all from beginning to end in order and perfect and have it all worked out and in a plan and OMG . . .

You don't have to write your entire book at once.

Read that again.

You don't have to write your entire book at once.

Here's the secret to the sauce: we are all just making this up as we go along and no two people write the same as each other.

Start anywhere! Do it any way you feel comfortable! Color outside the lines! Be a rebel!

You can start the book with the part you have in your head.

  • Maybe it's a scene that will occur in the back half of the book.
  • Maybe it's a bit of description of the mothership that hangs in orbit waiting for hapless travelers to stumble upon her.
  • Maybe it's a string of dialogue between the priest and the raver girl who happens to hold the devil in a jar.

Doesn't matter, write that down and keep writing. You can piece it together when you are done.

Now most people do write linearly, going from one end to the other and back again, plotting and planning it out. Some people make an outline.

But some of you don't and that's okay.

Some of you did before but for some reason don't know.

That's okay too.

Writing habits change and you have to be able to flow with that. For instance, my first 2 books and 3 novellas were written to music, I'd put it on and make words, using the music to drive the story. It really helped me get into the headspace and to get those books done. I wrote nearly 300,000 words all to music.

Now I write in as much silence as I can.

I used to write late at night, working until the wee hours, using my insomnia to make the time. I'd write while the rest of the house slept and many night those late hours of being the only awake being in the house, tuned into the circadian sleep cycles of my family, and the hush of the suburban neighborhood I live in all combined to give my writing a flow and a rhythm.

Now I write in the afternoon.

As I've written more and I've gotten older and my life has changed (the children moving out really impacted everything) the way I make time to write today is almost nothing like the way I would do so in the past.

It doesn't matter what your process is, the important thing is to write. Make the words.

But I know from talking with some of you, that these inevitable changes in your lives have led some of you to stop writing. You feel as if you are stuck behind a wall, separated from your writing.

First, I am sorry to hear that. That sucks.

Secondly, maybe you aren't having writer's block. Maybe your writing process is changing. 

Sometimes I know that I am stubborn and willful and I hold onto my ways out of comfort and security. Doing that can lead to conflict inside myself which puts me at a standstill. Take a moment, examine yourself and your life. See if possibly it's not the story but rather your life that is making the problem. If it is, then look for workarounds. Don't feel frustrated, it's okay. You are a brilliant writer and you can put that big brain of your to work and solve this. Think about changing your writing time to something that fits your life. Yes, you may have to sacrifice something, but I promise you that you don't have to sacrifice anything important.

Not more important than writing.

Go forth and make words, y'all. Till next time, take care of yourself, and each other.

James was born and raised in Georgia and grew up drawing and reading a steady helping of Robert E. Howard stories, Golden Age comics, and books he was far too young to be reading. Combined with a very Southern involvement in church and watching horror movies, this became the bedrock of his creativity. He became a tattoo artist, and now writes dark fantasy. He's the author of the Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter series, a variety of short stories and novellas set in the same world (and some outside of it), and the editor of the Thunder on the Battlefield anthologies. His newest series (co-written with Debbie Viguie), is Robin Hood: Demon's Bane.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

About Robin Hood: Demon's Bane

Sherwood Forest is a place of magic, and Prince John and his allies are demons bent upon ruling Britain. The solstice draws close, and Prince John and the Sheriff hold Maid Marian, whose blood sacrifice will lock the prince’s hold on the kingdom and the crown. Unless Marian can reach Robin with a magic artifact coveted by the enemy and entrusted to her by the Cardinal, the ritual will occur. 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. Excellent post. Words really do Matter. :-) Will clip this to my Evernote. Take care of yourself too.

  2. Thanks. Just shared on twitter

  3. I just tweeted, and now I'm going to write. Thanks!